Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Re-Entry for Round Two

When I woke up this morning, I just didn’t feel like celebrating my country. Admittedly, I did fall asleep the night before listening to an episode of Pod Save America about the recent resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. It’s hard not to be supremely disturbed by what this means on so many fronts, for so many people, but the feeling I’m carrying is deeper than that event or podcast episode, regardless of how deflating both were.

It took many years—in fact, most of my life to date—to develop any true sense of pride or belonging in the United States of America. I’ve written about that journey and evolution in previous posts on this blog, including “American Unexceptionalism,” (6/24/14). That pride has been challenged more than ever by the role that our country is playing in the world, and by the absolute backwards direction that we are now headed in. That is not a partisan statement, just an acknowledgement of the current state of affairs.

I spent the last week of June in my happy place, with no cell phone reception, wi-fi, or access to the news of the world. I’m not gonna lie, that’s part of what makes it my happy place. For the last two decades, I’ve done my best to make it to Jazz Camp West each summer—it’s my chance to shed, serve*, vibrate, and yes, hide. I keep it moving at a pretty intense pace, so this week is a critical chance for me to slow down, reset, and recharge. The tricky part is that with work piling up, sometimes a break from it only causes more stress.

Last summer, I also had a long overdue trip back to Colombia planned—tickets purchased and all. But I never ended up getting on that plane. At some point, it dawned on me just how much work we had to do to get ready for the 1st Annual 2020 Conference later that summer. I just knew that I would regret taking two weeks off, so the airfare went to waste, and I’m still overdue for a trip back to my other home and family. While I canceled my trip abroad, I still made it to Jazz Camp last year, and I don’t regret that decision at all. The 2020 Conference was an incredible experience, and I only had the juice to lead that effort because I was able to get my mind right before the big show.

About a month ago, I was again feeling like maybe disappearing for a week this year was not a good idea. We still had so much to do—outreach efforts to students, organizing workshops, raising money, and more. Would I be emerging from the woods to face the harsh reality of being under-prepared and behind schedule? Would I regret not spending every waking hour trying to make this year’s conference as beautiful as last year? Plus, was I really ready to miss a full week of the World Cup?***

There was another piece that made me pause. Granted, the nightly news has been bleak for some time, not just because the bad news sells. I know I’m not the only one that felt an increased sense of urgency as I learned more about what was happening on this country’s southern border. Unlike many in the socialmediasphere, I was not shocked. As some have pointed out, "you know who" is not the first president to criminalize the pursuit of the American Dream. Our country’s immigration policies have long been at odds with the words etched on the Statue of Liberty. While I was not surprised by what was going on, I was certainly pissed off. Not like, disturbed by the status quo—I mean heated. I’m not the only who felt like driving straight to Texas to… well, that was the problem… to do what?

I was able to find some peace, not because things are better now, but because I know what I want to do about it, and I’m already doing that. In fact, I am so sure about this that I recently I left my teaching and I've accepted the position as Executive Director of Youth Education for Success**, the non-profit that hosts the 2020 Conference. I used to accept that Camp was a magical place where everything worked, while the "real world" just isn't. But I can no longer embrace the bubble mentality—not at camp and not at a private school. The truth is, things inside the bubble are never as perfect as they seem.**** Also, those of us who benefit from those special spaces also have a responsibility beyond that bubble. We have a responsibility to address inequity, thereby reducing the need for that protective bubble in the first place.

I was blessed to spend over a week with my music family—hiding from the news, serving a community that has served me, and stepping up my skills on the bass (thank you Steve Hogan and Mary McSweeney for the schooling!). I was also able to disappear in peace because I am not alone in this work—our team is deep with amazing warriors like Knox, Mystic, Dr. Love, Jenny Schneider and my brother Al. We even have a few young interns that have decided to give their time and effort to support the project that they're benefiting from.

Now we are ready. Our work is with the youth, helping them prepare to fully join this struggle to cook up some more love, equity and compassion in our world. That’s why we started the 2020 Conference, and that’s why we’re coming back strong this summer for year number two. This is a non-partisan project, and we welcome support from anyone who cares about youth. Just like last year, we really need your help to make this project work. There are no big grants, no social media tycoons to foot the bill. Just people like you that understand the value of fully preparing our youth to make the changes in the world that they want to see. We need to raise over $10,000 this month—we did it last year, and we will do it again, and we hope you can contribute something, no matter what the amount.

Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation in support of the 2020 Conference. The 2020 Conference is a week-long empowerment and capacity-building experience for Bay Area high school students. We run a lean ship, powered by the efforts of volunteers—every penny is well spent, most of it in our local economy. Be that change, spare some change, make some change! The students thank you in advance for your love and your money!

Pura Vida,

*After a few years of participating as a teenage camper, I joined the Crew. This is the most motley of motley production crews. We are the musicians, dancers, and characters who are are also responsible for lugging gear around and setting good vibes for the week.

** Youth Education for Success provides and supports programs that enrich the creative capacity of youth for real world excellence.

*** The last few times I missed Jazz Camp, it was because I was out of the country, including South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. I did survive missing a week of this year's tournament, and I've been doing my best to make up for that lost time.

**** After three decades of being decidedly un-woke, we are now making an effort to recognize the Ohlone peoples and the land where Jazz Camp takes place each year. Thank you to Carmen, of the Bear and Eagle Apache clans, for pushing and leading us on this front.

(photo by Craig Cochrane)

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